Athletic leisure is one of the fastest growing segments of the Indian travel industry, and trekking -- once the rarefied pursuit of elite hobbyists -- is now practiced by a large swathe of India. Smartphones make connectivity and safety easier than ever, far-off places are now demystified with Google, and the paucity of open spaces in developing Indian cities increasingly forces weary urban-dwellers to head to the countryside to rejuvenate. Infrastructure around offbeat travel has also improved: air travel now connects hubs that were once very difficult to get to, a growing number of apps and websites are geared towards adventure trips, and the government is promoting rural tourism heavily.
But lest you think the mountains have become commoditized, fear not. Here are five remote treks in India that are still under the radar. However, these treks will eventually lose their mystique. If they’re on your bucket list, the time to go do them is, in fact, now!
Auden’s Col (13 Days)
This requires a certain taste for extreme conditions, since a trifecta of altitude, terrain and crevasses make Auden’s Col one of India’s most dangerous treks. Auden’s Col, near Gangotri in the Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, is a pass that connects the Rudugaira and Bhilangna valleys at a dizzying altitude of 5,490 meters. It was named after John Bicknell Auden, a British Geographical Survey officer who first discovered it in 1935 and crossed it in 1939. The route traverses a glacier known for its crevasses, and an experienced and capable guide is a must. Raacho Trekkers is a well-regarded local organization conducting trips in this area.
Lamkhaga Pass (13 Days)
This remote Himachal Pradesh trail ventures over the now-classic route from Gangotri to Kinnaur, first crossed by Marco Pallis in 1933. It's a strenuous, high altitude (5,284 meter peak elevation) trek that isn't for the faint of heart or flabby of physique. Yet, for the intrepid traveler, this is one of the most rewarding experiences in the Himalayas. June to October is the best season for this trek but temperatures can be brutally cold, and whiteouts have been known to occur. If you’re undertaking this arduous journey, it’s best done with an experienced, highly reputed organization -- besides, you’ll also need a permit, which is easiest done with professional assistance. White Magic Adventures is one agency that is known for its rigorous professional standards, but several local mountain guides also organize expeditions to Lamkhaga.
The Bhubu Pass Trek (Five Days)
Here’s a trek that’s relatively easy, quick, and yet secluded. The Bhubu Pass Trek is among the lesser-known treks in Himachal Pradesh. It goes from the Kullu valley to the Kangra valley, tracing the trails that locals use in the winter. The trail passes through some very remote areas and includes trekking over a number of ridges with pristine views. The pass offers spectacular views of Indrasan (6,221 meters) and DeoTibba (6,001 meters).
Damdar Kandi Pass Trek (14 Days)
If you’re looking to escape the human race while pitting yourself against a beast of a challenge, this solitary trail might just do the trick. The journey to Damdar Kandi Pass is one of the toughest treks in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand and involves a long, arduous, dogged climb. For those who manage to make it, the uphill battle is rewarded by some of the most breathtaking views in the Himalayas, such as Bandarpoonch and Swararohini peaks. You’ll also encounter a series of shrines that are of deep religious significance to Hindus. A group called Ravers Expeditions conducts this trip.
Kalihani Pass Trek (Seven Days)
The “pass of the black glacier” is an ancient shepherd trail in Himachal Pradesh around the remote village of Bara Bhangal. This is a tricky technical traverse through ice, glacier and moraine, culminating in a pass situated at 4,725 meters above sea level. Although the gradient is moderate, be prepared for freak hailstorms, long trudges and complete isolation. But if that sounds like your idea of heaven, this trail is a must-do!